We’re living in self-righteous times. And those who deem themselves the all-knowing experts of this confusing pandemic, quoting what is right and wrong to do, are often – unbeknownst to them – the biggest culprits of pretentious self-righteousness. This is because they act as if there is a wealth of concrete knowledge about the situation – as if we were ten years out from the situation. But we are still in a period of fact-finding. We should be fact-finding on the origin of this disaster, likely an accidental release of a bio-engineered virus from a lab in Wuhan funded by the NIH. We also should be fact-finding on the global underestimation of deaths. Finally, we should be meticulously fact-finding over time on the success of vaccination – so far the vaccines in place, some incredibly fascinating in their novel forms of delivery, appear to be safe and highly effective but we still don’t know the long-term yet. Indeed, in all this craziness, anyone pretending to be the definitive expert should humble themselves and slow down.
I feel this way because of the conceited rhetoric I’ve heard from a lot of people, highly educated and often medically-oriented folk. Rhetoric like: “To refuse the vaccination is crazy..." or "people who refuse should be penalized, not allowed to work…” or “of course we should have COVID passports...” or “unvaccinated people shouldn’t be treated in an ED (emergency department) if they catch COVID-19.” This last statement was from a doctor.
Where is the compassion? Where is the trying to understand the whole picture? Who are these self-righteous people, so focused on their own self-importance they’ve lost the narrative of how difficult life-decisions are for everyone? Do people really deserve to die for struggling with the decision to vaccinate themselves? Just for the record, the people I know who have been struggling with the decision are not nuts; they’re not fringe or paranoid; they’re out there working in jobs to serve others and are trying to protect themselves and others as they do so; they’re weighing the decision and are fearful for various respectable reasons. They are regular people like you and me caught in a pandemic not of their making.
And if we should be making a federal case about the unvaccinated, stating they should be viewed as reprehensibles not deserving of medical treatment if they get COVID-19, then where do we draw the line? Should we not treat our obese or cardiac or diabetic patients when their dietary habits bring them to disease and crisis? Should we turn away the COPD-ers and cancer patients who smoked? Where do we draw the line on what constitutes a personal choice which is just too poor for us to treat? The ED and the hospital are virtually one hundred percent full of cases which stem from personal choices. And lest one state that that an infection carries more weight (therein lies the importance of gauging the actual mortality of the disease) don’t forget that medicine has been full of that, too. Personal choices leading to worsened spread - it didn’t stop us from treating before, even in prior pandemics.
I think our rhetoric is too extreme and without compassion. Yes, we should be pushing for mass vaccination to stop this disease. But we don’t need to pretend that the little we know so far about the scope and capability of this disease is enough to arm us to be experts. We haven’t even broached the real discussions, where did this come from, and why? What is the true death rate from the disease? What's the true morbidity from the the disease? We haven’t even had a few years yet on the disease to understand if it will seasonally cycle; will come in unpredictable waves; will mutate further into another more devastating form? While we are in the fact-finding phase, let us be vigilant about protecting ourselves and others, let us proactively encourage our fellow men and women to get vaccinated, and let us also engage in unbiased and non-condemning rhetoric to get those who are fundamentally fearful closer to being comfortable. After all, everything we do raises the specter of mortality – even a single vaccination.